US Millennials image - Do Millennials Matter?

America’s younger adults are at the centre of most marketing plans – but are they really that important?

I’ve been having some heretical thoughts recently. Chief among them: is it right that we should be making such a fuss about Millennials in the United States?

Yes, 21-34 year old Americans are important, and interesting, and different. Over the past year I have led a large Wine Intelligence project to understand this demographic better in the context of the wine category. The result: we know that Millennials now account for around 3 in 10 American regular wine drinkers, account for around 40% of the volume of wine consumed and – most pertinent – half of all dollars spent on wine across on and off premise locations last year.

This last stat is boosted by the fact that Millennials tend to go out to eat and drink more than any other group, so tend to spend correspondingly more per bottle on average, because more of their bottles (and glasses) are being bought in bars and restaurants, and have the contingent markup.

The heretical thoughts stem from a fairly basic realisation: yes, millennials are different, but one can say that about every generation compared to those who came before. Baby boomers looked and acted very differently from their buttoned-up parents, and, as fans of Downton Abbey know well, the generation who came of age in the 1920s had very different outlooks on life compared with their Victorian/Edwardian forebears.

And if we apply a very reductionist philosophy to our observations about the wine drinking habits of today’s Millennials, we would perhaps conclude that they aren’t doing any thing radically different. Their wine drinking mainly occurs in high profile social situations – bars, restaurants, parties – and tends not to be an everyday activity. If I rewind my own experiences of my 20s, that’s more or less what I did as well.

Once we have put Millennials in their appropriate context (and as a bitter Gen-Xer, I feel this is important) we can appreciate that their differences, whilst notable, should not come as a shock to us. Nor should our industry necessarily chase after them in a helter-skelter way, and ignore its more established base.

Having spent a lot of time thinking about this, my view on US Millennials boils down to this: they require more of their brand relationships in everything they do, because they can. To interact with brands, they have a set of tools that are unprecedented in terms of their power, reach and versatility in the history of humanity.

Their relationship with wine isn’t that different to that of previous generations. It’s just that they have a lot else that can occupy their minds, from other drinks categories (and other stuff generally). The fuss, then, is not about Millennials themselves, but about the increased competition for their attention. In this regard wine is facing more of a fight for relevance in the long term, and this is why Millennials matter.


Author: Lulie Halstead